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The Winter Rose
Synopses & Reviews
It has been twelve years since a dark, murderous figure stalked the alleys and courts of Whitechapel. And yet, in the summer of 1900, East London is still poor, still brutal, still a shadow city to its western twin. Among the reformers is an idealistic young woman named India Selwyn-Jones, recently graduated from medical school. With the help of her influential fiancé--Freddie Lytton, an up-and-coming Liberal MP--she works to shut down the area's opium dens that destroy both body and soul. Her selfless activities better her patients' lives and bring her immense gratification, but unfortunately, they also bring her into direct conflict with East London's ruling crime lord--Sid Malone. India is not good for business and at first, Malone wants her out. But against all odds, India and Sid fall in love. Different in nearly every way, they share one thing in common--they're both wounded souls. Their love is impossible and they know it, yet they cling to it desperately. Lytton, India's fiancé, will stop at nothing to marry India and gain her family's fortune. Fractious criminal underlings and rivals conspire against Sid. When Sid is finally betrayed by one of his own, he must flee London to save his life. Mistakenly thinking him dead, India, pregnant and desperate, marries Freddie to provide a father for hers and Sid's child. India and Sid must each make a terrible sacrifice--a sacrifice that will change them both forever. One that will lead them to other lives, and other places . . . and perhaps--one distant, bittersweet day--back to each other.
"In late Victorian London, idealistic new medical school graduate India Selwyn Jones goes to work at a clinic in the city's poorest neighborhood, much to the dismay of her aristocratic mother and ambitious fianc, political up-and-comer Freddie Lytton. The squalor is a bit much for India, but she manages to keep her emotions under control until she meets underworld crime boss Sid Malone. Sid begins as India's nemesis, becomes her patient and ends up something much more than that. What India doesn't know is that Sid is the brother of tea heiress Fiona Bristow, wife of self-made, highly principled businessman Joseph Bristow. What Sid doesn't know is that India's fianc is as ruthless as Sid's most ruthless henchman, willing to commit theft, betrayal and even murder to launch his career, force India out of hers and bring down Sid in the process. In typical epic style, Donnelly (The Tea Rose) alternates India's story with Sid's, Freddie's, Joseph's and Fiona's, leading the reader through turn-of-the-century England from the Houses of Parliament to ale houses and whore houses, and from London to Africa and beyond. It's all familiar stuff, but Donnelly's passion and energy will keep readers turning the many pages, rooting for India and the gruff underworld boss she loves." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"If Jennifer Donnelly doesn't watch out, she's going to get a reputation. With publication of 'The Winter Rose,' she proves that her first fast, fat and fun historical romance — 2002's 'The Tea Rose' — wasn't a fluke. Although it's set in 1900, her new tale returns to a London that would still be familiar to Charles Dickens, a city of grimy poverty, privation-induced amorality and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) dark, low-roofed bars by the wharves. The heroine is India Selwyn Jones, a progressive young doctor in an era when lady doctors are considered peculiar. Estranged from her wealthy, aristocratic parents, in part because of her bizarre interest in things biological, she graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women and takes a job serving the city's poorest residents. Soon she's shocking the clinic's self-righteous male chief with her efforts to provide pain relief to women in labor and rubber johnnies to prostitutes. Like a Dickens heroine, India is good. Noble good. Close to too good, save for the fact that in her uncompromising do-gooder way, she's also kind of inspirational. She gives pints of her own blood to save a patient. She presciently declares that cigarettes cause lung cancer. And of course, she is slender with lovely blond curls but can't be bothered with her looks. Despite this willful disregard, India has managed to become engaged to turn-of-the-century hottie Freddie Lytton, her childhood pal and an ambitious member of Parliament. With his 'thick shock of golden hair, ... chiseled jaw (and) languid amber eyes,' he's the ultimate golden boy, 'the most gloriously handsome man she had ever seen.' But though she thinks she should love him, she doesn't. And as the ambitious second son of a blue-blooded but broke family, he's mostly interested in her father's millions. It's not long before India runs into Lytton's opposite: Sid Malone, the red-haired, ponytailed Robin Hood of East London and one of its 'most powerful, most feared criminal bosses.' Sid and India clash in that 'we hate each other, we love each other' way. As she gets to know him, she comes to accept her best friend's description of Sid as 'a good man who happens to do some bad things.' 'The Winter Rose' is filled with characters whose lives are ridiculously intertwined — secretly siblings, or secretly sharing a lover, or they've saved each others' lives. As the second installment in a planned trilogy, it involves some of the characters from 'The Tea Rose,' particularly its heroine, Fiona Finnegan, who is on a dangerous search for Sid. But you don't need to have read the first to enjoy the second. You do, however, have to accept a pinch of purple prose ('Her love was everything he wanted and everything he feared') and some pretty heavy-handed moral distinctions: Just as India is very, very good, the bad guy is very, very bad. But there's also a big helping of lively dialogue and an abundance of convincing period detail, from the poor mother feeding her infant 'a sop made from bread, water, and sugar' to India's methods when attending childbirth. And a number of the era's larger-than-life figures — Ernest Shackleton, Florence Nightingale, Jack the Ripper, Virginia Woolf and the young Winston Churchill — receive at least a mention. Donnelly can work all this in because her novel is upwards of 700 pages. But you're unlikely to notice because she's a master of pacing and plot, with enough high points scattered throughout to keep your pulse racing, from a manhunt in a rat-filled London tunnel to a child missing on the African plains (the book's final section takes place in Kenya). I became so consumed with finding out how it would end that I read the last third at near-choking speed. I just had to know: happy or not happy? I imagine you will, too." Reviewed by Claudia Deane, a Washington writer, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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It has been 12 years since a dark, murderous figure stalked the alleys and courts of Whitechapel. Reformers, moved by the plight of the poor, work to better their conditions. Among them is an idealistic young doctor named India Selwyn-Jones.
About the Author
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of The Tea Rose, a Booksense Pick, and the children's award winning book, A Northern Light. She lives in Tivoli, New York, with her husband and daughter.
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